Second Deployment of National Heritage Responders to Puerto Rico 

Two teams of FAIC’s National Heritage Responders are wrapping up a week of work in Puerto Rico. This is the second wave of team members to visit collections on the island affected by Hurricane Maria. 

Mold growth continued to be the primary issue facing most of the institutions visited. With such lengthy power outages, many collections faced exposure to extremely high temperatures and relative humidity. Even as power is restored for some institutions, assessing any incursions of mold remained a priority task. Team members continued to stress the importance of personal protective equipment for staff members working with collections, providing guidance on how to safely address the mold. 

Susan PPE

While site visits made up the bulk of the work completed by the teams, one group held a workshop for local artists and institutions on salvaging works. The Museo de las Américas, a museum in San Juan visited by the first deployment team in late November, graciously offered their space to host the workshop. Over thirty individuals attended to learn about how to handle their affected objects.   

Karen Workshop

FAIC will continue to work with affected collections and provide resources. You can learn more about our emergency programs here and see previous updates on recent emergencies here Stay tuned for more information about this group’s deployment and the team members who participated!

Update on Disaster Response and Recovery 10/13

During what has been one of the worst hurricane seasons on record, FAIC’s Emergency Programs have been working fervently to connect people to planning and response resources. Through collaboration with our partners on the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, (HENTF) we have been working to gather information about affected institutions and provide support as needed.

In Florida, following Irma, National Heritage Responders visited several affected sites to help assess damage and set up cleaning protocols. Museums from Orlando to Miami received in-person assistance, and many more throughout the region were given advice via the NHR hotline (202.661.8068) and email (

A new outreach project has been developed in collaboration with HENTF in order to make contact with all collecting institutions that may have been affected by recent storms. FAIC worked with partners in Texas and Florida to develop lists of regional institutions. Students at the University of Texas’s iSchool created tools to conduct a calling project with the Texas sites; the model has been adopted by students at the University of Florida who are in the process now of reaching out to Florida sites. The primary goal of this outreach effort is to connect those who suffered damage with the National Heritage Responders if salvage information is needed, and with FEMA if information on the Public Assistance process is needed.

Response to Hurricane Maria in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico has been slow-going but progress is being made. The level of damage in the region has meant that life and safety issues have remained the priority far into the recovery process. FAIC is started to gather information about the institutions in need, and is once again closely collaborating with HENTF and our Federal partners to ensure an effective response. We will notify members about opportunities to support these efforts.

Finally, we recognize that hurricanes are not the only natural disasters wreaking havoc on our shared cultural heritage. The wildfires in Northern California have brought devastation to the region, and can impact not only those in the path of the flames, but those who may suffer from smoke and soot damage. FAIC is working closely with California partners to assess the situation, and the National Heritage Responders are developing lists of resources on smoke and soot damage to help with the recovery process.

The natural disasters that our nation has faced in the past several weeks serve as a reminder of the importance of preparedness – in our institutions, in our private practices, and in our homes.

Harvey Updates 9/8

FAIC’s Emergency Programs have been working in high gear to gather information about damage from Hurricane Harvey. Our National Heritage Responders have been fielding calls on their hotline (202.661.8068) and directing resources as appropriate. Steve Pine, an NHR team member and leader of the TX-CERA Alliance for Response group,  has been conducting assessments of Houston-area institutions that sustained damage. Today the first team of responders is arriving to assist with the stabilization of a mold-damaged mural and the flooded collection of props at a prominent local theater.

Many thanks to the Houston-area AIC members who have volunteered their homes for team members to stay in during future NHR deployments. We will keep the membership informed about additional opportunities to assist with recovery efforts.

Today, on a call organized by the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, FAIC shared updates on damage reports and our plans for action. We look forward to future collaborative efforts with our fellow task force members and representatives from Texas state agencies.

The next hurricane, Irma, is almost upon Florida. Our thoughts are with our members in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas as they finalize preparations for this historic storm. We will plan to continue to update this blog with information about our response to Irma as well.

44th Annual Meeting – General Session: Lead by Example, Models to Follow, Track E, May 16, “PRICE: Preparedness and Response in Collections Emergencies,” by Sarah Stauderman

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC has long dealt with collection emergencies. One of the first major disasters in their history was a construction fire that broke out on January 24, 1865 in the Smithsonian Institution Building, lovingly known as the Castle. This fire started between the ceiling and the roof of the main hall when workmen accidentally inserted a stove pipe into the brick lining of the building, instead of into a flue. In another unfortunate twist of fate, Secretary Joseph Henry (1797-1878) had established a winter-time fuel conservation program throughout the building, causing the water-filled fire buckets located in the hallways to freeze in the frigid temperatures. The library and many early collections, including the papers of James Smithson, were largely destroyed.

Fire in Smithsonian Institution Building, by Gardner, Alexander 1821-1882, January 24, 1865, Smithsonian Archives – History Div, 37082 or MAH-37082.

Now, one hundred and fifty years later, colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution have come together to discuss the roles they play in the prevention, preparation, and response to collections-related emergencies. While the Smithsonian currently maintains a robust disaster management program, it focuses primarily on human safety, which no one would argue comes first in any emergency. However, recognizing the need for planning for collections, staff has recently developed a concept for the Institution called PRICE, or Preparation and Response In Collections Emergencies.
The Smithsonian Institution policy on emergencies is encoded in Directives. Two directives that pertain to stewardship for collections in emergencies are: Smithsonian Directive (SD) 109 and SD 600. SD 109 sets requirements at both an institutional- and unit-level for emergency management pans. SD 600 establishes policies and standards for all aspects of collections management, which includes emergency management.
Two recent and notable emergencies sparked this reevaluation of collections emergency preparedness – the collapse of the Garber Facility in 2010 due to the weight of snow on the roof, and an earthquake in the DC region in 2011. Several areas for improvement were identified from these events:

  • Training for all staff. There is a need to effectively inform staff about proper lifesaving responses to specific emergencies (such as earthquakes), the Incident Command System, and procedures for access to affected facilities.
  • Training for collection emergency response staff. There is a need for training on safety, related to collection-based hazards, post-damage assessment methods, and salvage techniques for specific media types.
  • Quality control during installation and inspection of storage furniture.
  • Design of storage housing and exhibit mounts to minimize damage in the event of a future seismic event.
  • Collections spaces to tolerate risks, such as and earthquake or flood.

In the context of these recent emergencies, the Smithsonian has been approaching preventive conservation initiatives pan-institutionally. For example:

  • “Strengthening collections” is listed as part of the Institution’s strategic plan, as is broadening access
  • Through the National Collections Program (NCP), there are four leadership groups currently addressing collections stewardship: Collections Advisory Committee, Collections Space Committee, Digitization Program Office (DPO), and several media-specific initiatives.
  • The Collections Emergency Working Group, which formulated the PRICE initiative, brought together collections managers, conservators, physical security specialists, NCP staff, and facilities professionals.

The Collections Emergency Working Group recommended that in the event an emergency involves collections, the Emergency Operation Center and National Collections Program will have the PRICE team of collections responders to assist and activate response and recovery. Since the Smithsonian uses the Incident Command System (ICS) for emergencies, the PRICE team would fit seamlessly into its structure as one of the reporting groups to the incident commander. For more information about ICS in libraries, archives, and museums, check out David Carmichael’s book on the topic.
The PRICE committee structure will be that of six members and a chair. (Samantha Snell joined the NCP in March 2016 as the PRICE chair.) The team will follow the emergency life-cycle of preparedness, response, and recovery, and consists of three concentrations that must be addressed throughout an emergency – policy and procedures, training, and logistics.

PRICE Structure, Powerpoint, S. Stauderman.
PRICE Structure, Powerpoint, S. Stauderman.

Just remember that the PRICE initiative does NOT replace or duplicate emergency command centers (ECCs) or replace unit plans. However, it DOES enable ECCs, synthesize planning efforts, develop capacity, foster Smithsonian sharing, and take as models, the Alliance for Response and Cultural Recovery Center.
This concept is now in its initial implementation phase at the Smithsonian, so stay tuned for more exciting news about this initiative!

44th Annual Meeting – Emergency Session, May 16, “Lighting a Fire: Initiating an Emergency Management Program,” by Rebecca Fifield

Instituting an emergency management program at your organization is hard. I don’t think anyone would ever argue that. And it’s not just about a written emergency plan. While this is a great place to start, and certainly integral to a complete program, it doesn’t inspire and excite. It doesn’t create an emergency preparedness culture. Rebecca Fifield, a Preservation Consultant and owner of Rebecca Fifield Preservation Services, spoke about several ways to ignite a planning effort and maintain momentum when starting an emergency management program at your institution.
First, create a vision. Don’t just update your phone tree. Get a budget line, meet with your local community, and set up training exercises. Asking for a premium plan built on best practices creates the greatest impact and helps staff get behind the change.
Next, refine and strengthen that vision by creating relationships with allies. Allies can make your project stronger by challenging assumptions, informing the project with their industry expertise, and using their connections to develop momentum around your idea. But how do we identify these allies? Are they our supervisors? Yes! If they haven’t considered it before now, educate your supervisor about how risk management and emergency preparedness go hand-in-hand and how they both are part of our professional responsibility. (See Marie Malaro’s A Legal Primer for Managing Museum Collections). Are our allies Conservators, Registrars, Collections Managers, Security, Facilities Managers, Curators, Educators, IT staff, Human Resources, Communications, and Development? YES TO ALL! Emergency preparedness efforts can often be attached to efforts such as the institutional audit process, health and safety initiatives, construction, or large-scale conservation projects. Start a talking campaign. Remember that a disaster effects every staff member, so it only makes sense to have them as part of your web of allies.
Set a time-sensitive goal. Put a time frame on preparedness to create a challenge, because it can be easy to keep putting off planning. Pose questions that reveal preparedness needs for specific institutional goals: Could there be a potential protest related to an upcoming exhibition? Will you be effected by the upcoming hurricane season? Are you in a region that often deals with large amounts of snow? Look at your historical record. Has your organization suffered a past emergency, and what was the impact on people and collections? Are you dealing with aging infrastructure? Survey your staff. Does everyone know their role in an emergency? These aren’t meant to be scare tactics. This is to make sure that the decision-makers at your institution are well-informed.
Connect with other institutions and your community. Reach out to similar organizations to your own and find out who’s on their planning team and their responsibilities. Take this time to establish an informational exchange. Meet other emergency managers in your region. Get involved with professional organizations such as Alliance for Response, as well as regional responders like the Virginia Association of Museum’s Emergency Response Teams and your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Encourage involvement from staff by having some of these organizations come to you for a talk or training exercises.
Be resilient in the face of negativity. We are all very busy and you may receive some push-back from management and staff. Use emergency management as an opportunity for situational leadership, which allows you to display your ability to lead for the future. It hones your persuasion skills, creates ties with operations and administration colleagues, and provides you with a ready opportunity for development that your current position may not provide. It may take months, and even years, to understand how your institution will function in an emergency, the decisions that will need to be made, and the conversations to confirm direction and readiness. Just remember, that time is as important as developing the plan itself.

Joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting & 42nd CAC-ACCR Annual Conference, General Session, May 16, “Clandon Park – rising from the ashes,” by Christine Leback Sitwell

In the spring of 2012, as a conservation student at UCL, I had the privilege to visit Clandon Park during a field trip. When I heard of the fire that occurred almost three years after my visit, I was shocked and devastated. My attendance to this talk was driven by a personal resonation with Clandon as well as the curiosity and fascination to see an emergency plan in use, despite the circumstances.

A personal photo of a classmate in the marble hall, 2012 and the marble hall post fire, 2015

Christine Sitwell, the Paintings Conservation Advisor for the National Trust in the UK, discussed the emergency response plan in regards to the fire at Clandon Park. The fire started quite small in a basement office on the right side of the building in the late afternoon of April 29, 2015. The fire then rose through the empty elevator shaft, enabling it to reach the lead covered roof and travel across to the left side of the building. Because of this, items and rooms on the left side, albeit still damaged, were not as badly damaged as the right side of the building. It was estimated that the amount damaged and/or completely lost totaled ninety-five percent.
Clandon Park, being under the auspices of the National Trust, has an emergency plan in place. Ironically, five weeks prior, a training procedure involving the fire brigade occurred at Clandon. Christine briefly went over the basics of the plan, including their incident reporting system. The system involves a phone tree, salvage areas to move objects, security, and something called star item sheets. These star item sheets were developed by property staff that prioritize objects as great significance to the property or of great art historical value. They are clear, simple, and to be used by the fire brigade when salvaging items. They are laminated and have two copies, one on the property as well as one in the regional office. Below are the two example slides she provided.
clandon slide1 clandon slide2
Once these objects have been removed from the property, they are moved to designated salvage areas, inventoried, and finally moved to more secure locations. Three of the items salvaged included three paintings that, fortunately or unfortunately, had to be cut from their frames as the paintings in their frames were much too heavy and risky to be removed together. Positively, the frames were saved as well. Clandon has bottom hanging frames just for this reason, the frames hang at the bottom for ease of removal.
Once the bulk of the items are salvaged things are not over. In addition to inventory and conservation, the next issue is security. Christine mentioned that the ease of information through the internet, smart phones, and the press increased risk of theft of items and perhaps more subsequent damage to the building. The emergency plan for Clandon Park includes a communication officer. Their duty is to be the point of up to date information regarding any changes, and updates during and immediately following an emergency. They are the point of contact with the press and the public.
Christine then shared a video diary she recorded during the aftermath of the fire. It included a school that was shut down for two days to help store some of the objects. The video diary is below.
Rescued from the ruins – a video diary of the salvage operation at Clandon Park
More issues occurred because of the many different salvage sites. A collections management system was created in a spreadsheet manner in order to determine the different levels of damage to each object within each salvage site. The building construction was damaged but intact, leaving a shell of a building. The damage was assessed with a 3D laser and the building’s structural stability was able to be evaluated. There were various other methods of surveying the damage, including a drone.
There were also the health hazards associated with the burning lead roof. The burning created about six feet of lead oxide dust and debris inside. The possible risk of mercury and asbestos poisoning was also present. Therefore, admittance had to be regulated and personnel properly outfitted in order to excavate the burnt layers to retrieve small finds.
The final part of the talk was in regards to the future of Clandon Park. It was stated that the General Director of the National Trust will rebuild Clandon Park, but to what degree. There have been instances with other National Trust properties on how they have handled such a large devastation. The options with how to handle Clandon park were to: demolish, maintain as a ruin, restore completely, reinvent for another purpose, or a use blended approach. The latter seems the most likely to occur.
To end her talk, Christine shared another video about the future of Clandon Park. The video can be seen below.
Clandon Park: The Future
Overall, it was intriguing and somber to see an emergency plan being utilized during such a destructive event. I enjoyed the fact that it was not a talk on the development of a plan in case of emergency, but rather the practice of it in the moment. Not only was this a learning experience for the National Trust and everyone involved in the process, I’m sure it meant a great deal to everyone who was present at Christine’s talk. If anyone else had the chance to visit Clandon before the fire, then you are aware of how such a startling loss this has been, not only for the local community, but for admirers around the world.  I am hopeful for Clandon Park’s future.
Further information:
Clandon Park at the National Trust
Our Work at Clandon Park